Book Review: Trump, The Art of the Deal

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It is fascinating to read this book, not only for its business acumen but also from the perspective of thirty years or so after the events recounted, when Donald Trump has left the business world and become President Trump. The book opens with a typical day in the life of dealmaker Donald Trump. One incident that struck me is Trump’s efforts to raise money for Annabel Hill. Trump became aware of this situation through Don Imus, a well-known radio personality. Mrs. Hill was trying to save her home from being foreclosed. Her husband had tragically killed himself in order to procure money from his life insurance policy. The proceeds from the insurance were not enough. Trump called the bank who held Mrs. Hill’s mortgage, and when the vice-president of the bank told Trump there was nothing he could do, Trump threatened to bring a lawsuit for murder against the bank. His point was that the bank was indirectly responsible for the death of Mrs. Hill’s husband. Here, you can see the compassion of Trump, who has a soft spot for the little guy. He repeatedly told people on the campaign trail that they had been forgotten by Washington, and that his goal was to make sure that they are not forgotten any longer.

Trump was constantly involved with government because he needed city planning commissions and other governmental entities to approve his development projects. At one point, he mentions someone who worked as a housing commissioner under Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City. Trump would fight with this commissioner a lot, but later hired him. Trump says that he doesn’t mind if people oppose him; his main concern is hiring the best possible talent. He applied this approach when hiring Kellyanne Conway, who opposed him initially when working for Ted Cruz.

Trump is an all-business, serious sort of guy. He doesn’t like vacations or small talk. He likes to work and get things done. For Trump, the fact that being a businessman means going to a lot of parties is a bad thing, and he always tries to leave early.

Trump seems to be a combination of both of his parents. His father was a very serious, tough man who ran properties in Brooklyn. Trump’s mother was more interested in glamour and celebrity. Trump recalls how fascinated his mother was when viewing a coronation ceremony on television, and how his father ridiculed his mom for this interest. Trump is interested in competence and efficiency like his dad, but also loves the spotlight and glamour. He is drawn to casinos, entertainment, and sports.

Trump has always been feuding with the press. At times, the press, in particular the New York Times, has helped his work; at other times, the press has criticized him as a businessman. At one point, Trump expresses with awe how powerful the New York Times is. It had at one point tremendous influence over politicians in the city. Trump must feel very gratified that a paper he relied on to further his business interests is now flailing because of its biased coverage of his campaign. He continually tweets about how this paper is failing. He must feel as though he has slain Goliath.

Trump discusses his purchase of Mar-a-Lago, a gorgeous estate in Florida which he now calls the “winter whitehouse.” Interestingly, the previous owner, Mrs. Marjorie Post, gave it to the government as a presidential retreat. The government eventually gave back the estate to Post, and then Trump bought it for eight million dollars. But, now it is a presidential retreat again.

Trump offers an interesting critique of contemporary art. At one point, one of Trump’s friends, who is an artist, picks up a bucket of paint and splashes it on a canvas. He did it four times, each time with a different color. After a few minutes of this, the artists says that he has just earned $25,000. Trump thinks that modern art is a con, and that the artists who do it are better at self-promotion than they are at art.

This book is full of trenchant observations. I have always thought that President Trump is one of the most thoughtful and substantive tweeters out there, and he brings the same inquiring and incisive mind to this book.

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